Beautifully packaged, the album ‘Nevrast’ comes in a handsome digi-pack with, and this is the real bonus, a 5.1 mix of the album. A project entirely dictated by a passion for creation, ‘Nevrast’ features stunning artwork from Florence Guillot that draws you in before you hear a single note and the music was crafted by an astonishing array of musicians, including a string section and a choir. Such ambition is so rare a quality that it is hard not to be impressed but, most importantly, Ainulindale have the songs to back up such exploits.
Opening with a string overture so perfectly captured that you can hear the bows moving across the strings, ‘hither land’ is an amazing piece of music, subtle and dynamic, and it ebbs and flows as the strings rise and fall to create a beautifully emotive introduction that segues neatly into ‘the parting’, a folk-imbued lilt that benefits immensely from the excellent 5.1 mixing. Drawing upon ancient folk as well as the recent progressive excursions of Anathema, ‘the parting’ is a stunning piece of music that utterly envelopes the listener. Thomas Reybard’s vocals are delivered in a gentle, Tolkenian tone that marries beautifully with rich, string-laden music that tugs at the heart strings and evokes images of barren, yet beautiful countryside populated by sparse homesteads and miles of empty land. Augmented by Alice Jean’s beautiful vocals in the latter half of the song, ‘the parting’ swells to a beautiful crescendo before drifting away to leave the listener heart broken by its departure. ‘By the shore’ is a piece of lush, pastoral music complete with flute and guitar playing that is simply beautiful without being showy. Underscored by a richly resonant bass and with sumptuous vocal harmonies, it is a remarkable accomplishment, not only to create music so utterly evocative, but also a testament to the mixing skills of Thomas Reybard who clearly understands the needs of his own music and brings it to sparkling life, expecially in 5.1. This is epic, progressive music that never fails to stun, and by the time the song draws to a close you’ll be utterly in love with the remarkable soundscapes of Ainulindale. ‘Namarie’ again recalls the sombre beauty of Anathema’s stripped down ‘hindsight’ album. With a lead vocal from Alice and carefully arranged orchestration, ‘Namarie’ is music to a walk through the solitary splendour of nature’s most isolated spots, and whether it literally scores a walk through the country, or takes you there on the wings of imagination, it is hard to imagine a more perfect score to gentle melancholy and quiet introspection. ‘Namarie’ boasts a surprise, however, the latter half of the song exploding into life, as if the world has awoken from its ancient slumber and is pouring fourth life in front of your astonished eyes. The musicianship is of the highest standard, the vibrant swell of the music further proof that the band are content to be nothing less than majestic.
‘Vinyamar’ is a moment of calm, shorn of lyrics but awash with wordless vocalisations that are far more emotive than even the most erudite lyrics could be. Like the chants that echoed around the halls of the ancient kings, it taps into a primal vein and conjures images of great halls lit by the flickering of candles. ‘Under May’s moon’, as you might expect, is a gentle tale that follows a traveller as he wonders, lost and alone, under the titular moon. The title track is a beautiful, yet mournful tale of the distress the earth has suffered at man’s hands, the great battles of yore ravishing the countryside and leaving a desolate wasteland in its place. It’s an epic tale that sweeps through the mists of time, the story of terrible battles and magnificent folly as heart breaking as it is pertinent to our current situation, fulfilling the greatest ambition of any folk tale – to look both forwards and backwards at the same time, telling the tales of the past so that people might learn for the future. The final track, ‘distant land’ is an instrumental coda that draws down the veil of darkness upon the album and leaves the listener bereft as the music finally wends to a close. You can hear the fingers scraping across the strings as Thomas plays a beautiful solo that would not sound out of place on a David Gilmour album. It is a stunning ending to an album that is delivered both from and to the heart.
Ainulindale have created a remarkable work in ‘Nevrast’. The music is truly timeless, seeking neither fashion, nor fortune, nor fame and the result is an album which is musically pure and perfectly written. There is no expectation here, no attempt to indulge any desire other than a passion for creativity and the music is frequently sublime beyond measure as a result. Whether you call it folk, or progressive really does not matter, this is simply a beautiful piece of music that graces all who hear it. It has taken me a frightfully long time to write this review simply because it is music of the spirit that requires a level of engagement that is not always possible to give, but I would unreservedly recommend this album to anyone who hankers after the open countryside and a move away from the mass, industrialised and commercial world we now live in. ‘Nevrast’ is never less than beautiful, and it is a body of work that will haunt your dreams and soothe your soul. It is truly exquisite.